In September I began weighing out the possibilities of studying abroad for the spring semester of my junior year. In October I set my heart on Florence, Italy and sent in my application to Academic Programs International. In November I sent in my deposit and made the final decision to head off to Europe. In December I got my student visa and moved out of my cozy room in Smithfield, RI saying goodbye to four of my roommates and closest friends. In January I packed my bags and had a going away party at my house in Weymouth, MA saying goodbye to my family and friends from home. When did I mentally prepare for this adventure? I’m not sure. If you read my first ever blog post, you would know that this was a difficult decision for me to make. And it has proven to be the absolute best decision I have ever made.
On January 23, 2011 I boarded my flight from Logan Airport, connecting in Munich, Germany and ultimately arriving in Florence, Italy. When the plane was taxi-ing around the runway I felt myself begin to freak out, why was I about to leave comfort zone for four months? What the hell was I doing? If I only knew then where I would travel to, who I would meet, and what I would learn, I would have never been nervous in the first place.
In January I moved into my new apartment at Borgo San Jacapo, 2 and met seven girls that will be amazing friends of mine for a long, long time. Together we explored Florence, learning the ways of the streets, the shops, the markets, the restaurants, the bars, and of course the people. We became accustomed to walking through the city in order to get to class every day. We learned how classes in a foreign country are run, and how the workload cannot even be compared to what it is at our home universities. We learned the currency and the language (kind of, sort of).
In February we started our exploring. The first adventure was to Cinque Terre, which is an area of five coastal villages in Italy. Despite the train mix-ups, horrible weather, and landslides that most people would consider a disaster, in our minds this was a great way to start our travels. Later in the month, we found ourselves in Rome, one of the most historical cities in the world. Our program included this three day weekend in which all of my roommates attended, and gave us travel insight for the future. The last weekend of the month three of us made our way to Barcelona, Spain. This weekend was unbelievable, including the beauty of the beach, the food and culture of a different country, and even our first experience in a hostel.
March was a huge month for travel. Starting off in Venice for Carnivale, which was the most amazing time of year to be in this beautiful, lively city. Next was out ten day long spring break, in which I visited three culturally different, eye opening and gorgeous cities: Paris, France first, Prague, Czech Republic second and Amsterdam, Holland third. Each city had its own unique culture, leaving me with special memories of my time spent in each, and coming together for the best spring break trip that anyone could ever ask for. A four day recovery period was left in between spring break and the next adventure: Istanbul, Turkey! This was by far the most culturally enriching weekend of the semester, due to the extreme difference from what is considered the norm for me. With March behind me, I was in store for an equally busy and exciting month in April.
The first weekend in April, which was also my 21st birthday weekend, we went on an “Under the Tuscan Sun” excursion to Siena, Perugia, and the Chianti region. This was an exciting, non-stop weekend which included visits to the thermal baths and a wine tasting in the Chianti hills. The next week my family arrived in Florence and we headed to Rome for the weekend. Although I had previously been to Rome, it was great to experience everything again with them. The following weekend was 5 days to include the Easter holiday, in which I took off to the Amalfi Coast. This trip included visiting Sorrento, Capri, Anacapri, Positano, Pompeii and Naples; all of which were amazing and served as one of the best weekend trips of the semester. To end off this amazing month, the last weekend consisted of Spring Fest in Munich, Germany. Having traveled to Munich prior to this semester, I knew what a wonderful city it was, but it was amazing to experience it in the spring, and also experience this lively festival with one of my roommates.
May was a bittersweet month, knowing that we were leaving Florence shortly, but also being appreciative for everything we had experienced. Everyone spent our few last weekend in May in Florence, soaking in anything we had missed in the past. Frequenting the best pizza, panino and gelato shops and also buying any leather goods or souvenirs we saved for last. The first weekend in May our University put on a festival called “Art in the Streets” which consisted of an art exhibition, a dance show and a fashion show, in which some of my roommates and I participated in. May 14, 2011 was the sad day we had been dreading since we moved in in January. The day we had to move out of the apartment, and most of us had to say our goodbyes. Packing to go home was such a strange feeling, and cleaning out our shared items was even stranger. This day our travels took us in very different directions. Hannah was heading home to Philadelphia, Heather, Madison, and Stephanie were headed to Barcelona, Margot and Harmonie were headed to Spain and Portugal, Kara was headed to Rome with her family, and I was headed to Dublin, Ireland. Saying goodbye and walking out of the apartment was one of the worst feelings in the world, but it also reminded me of the great memories I will have forever with these girls. I spent a few days in Dublin with a friend from home, soaking in the English speaking natives, the cars that drive the “wrong” way on the street, and of course the Irish Pubs. I left for Boston, Massachusetts on Tuesday, May 17th. After the long flight, and seeing my Dad at the airport, I felt totally normal which was a surprise to me. The shock of not being in Florence anymore didn’t set in for a few days when I began a new routine.
As you know from reading this post, and the many posts throughout the semester, I experienced so much during this time abroad. I traveled to eight European countries, and countless cities within Italy. But the most important part is who I met and what I learned about myself. Our last night out to dinner in Florence, we all discussed our setbacks that took place during the semester. At this point we were able to laugh about missed flights, stolen phones and cameras, pick-pocketed wallets and bizarre illnesses. Each of these incidents, which at one point upset each of us to a great extent, made us so much stronger. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am pretty sure each one of the seven other girls living on the “other side of the river” with me, learned many things about themselves and each other in our four months in Firenze.
As I sit here writing this at my house, in Weymouth, Massachusetts I am sad that this adventure had to come to an end, but am so happy that it happened at all. The pictures, stories, and memories will stay with me forever. If you ever have the chance to study abroad, take it! It was a life changing experience. I am so thankful for everyone that made this trip possible for me, and supported me along the way; I can never thank you enough.
And to my seven amazing JACAPOES, I know I will see you all very soon, and hopefully we can find ourselves together again on Borgo San Jacapo someday.
Until then, CIAO CIAO MEOW!